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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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306                                  LIFE   OF
Humboldt determined to devote the next years
of Ms retirement from public affairs to travelling- and
to  longer   residences   abroad,   affairs   at  borne   bad
undergone little change, and those of Europe merely
a deceptive one.    In Prussia., the weak .rule of Frederic
William II. was still  paramount.,  and all  hopes for
improvement were  centred in his successor, Frederic
William III., who  ascended the throne  shortly after
Humboldt had commenced his journey (16th N<yv«9
1797)- Worse the condition of Germany could scarcely
be.     The governments and the people were apathetic ;
no trace of national spirit existed ; the political feel-
ing  of the  nation was annihilated   by  centuries  of
miserable tyrants^ and a few rays of light existed only
in the intellectual progress made in a few German
principalities.     In this   intellectual   progress   of  th,e
German nation in arts and science^ Humboldt hady as
we have seen, taken an active paxty but he could do
nothing but turn in disgust from the sphere of political
life,     For what but shame and defeat could be ex-
pected from   this   divided   nation,,   whose   powerless
fragments  had at their head  two  monarchies filled
with  intense hatred of each other.     What prospect
was there but a fearful revolution,, whose issue  could
in no way be calculated ?  What could be hoped for but
a fundamental  renovation, inwardly and outwardly,
of the national life> and of Prussia, powerless and cor-
rupt in its isolation ?
Would not any man who is independent rather quit
for a time a country which has such melancholy pros-
pects, and reserve his services until he mav .ho-pe to